I've had a few things moving around in my head for a long time. The last two months, I've been able to do some reorganizing. Call it mental spring cleaning.
The older one released the cylinder and spun it once. Then he tipped it back, emptying the six chambers of the cylinder. Then he let one shimmering, gold bullet in between his black-dirty thumb and forefinger, and loaded one chamber.
In the clearing ahead, the brush rustled and the pebbles at the edge of the stream registered the sound of hooves. As the blood in his veins turned as black as the evening shadows, he steeled himself for the shot. And for his final choice.
Sitting in the seat of the big Cadillac, he clicked the freshly loaded clip back into the Beretta and checked the safety, slid it comfortably back into the holster, like a hand going into a waiting pocket. He was glad the running was over, glad that he would be able to ask for the bonus without any guilt this time.
The Praetorians will take me, I’m sure of it. One last walk down the low-lit red corridor to the mess hall to be with my girls.
They hit the switch, there was an electric crackle, and all I could see was hazy white out the window. I felt myself drifting, and then I saw nothing but blue. No other colors, not even close.
I’d gone to the place of the hermit not too many years before expecting the usual. Dusty brushes with horse hair at the end of a stick, ash from an old cigar and some crushed shell thrown around the room, the Ace, the Queen, the Five of Hearts and Two of Spades on the table next to a glass ball and a chicken foot.
He had found it almost by accident, the strange stone monkey, an artifact worth a lot to an old guy in Chicago. Three days later he was on a cot in a hut in Fortaleza in the depths of something a lot like malaria. It was the monkey – the Gypsy Monkey, they called it – and it spoke to him in his twisted dreams. Make your choice, make your sacrifice.
Two days later I was sitting on my small balcony wondering what to expect, when the breeze shifted and the evening rain clouds rolled in. I ordered a pizza and ran down to the market for a six-pack. The rain had just started plinking on the roof when I heard the knock. I knew who it was.